If you’re like most people, you run out of something, place an order on Amazon and receive a replacement within days. This process is easy and convenient to be sure, but have you ever thought about all of the in-between steps?
Probably not, and that’s okay. But you might be interested to learn that Amazon uses hundreds of thousands of robots to help you get your order as quickly as possible. If you’re interested in learning more about how Amazon uses robots, then keep reading!
Does Amazon Use Robots In 2023?
Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012 and renamed the brand Amazon Robotics. Since then, Amazon has been at the forefront of warehouse automation. The e-commerce giant utilizes about 350,000 mobile drive unit robots in fulfillment centers around the world as of 2023. Robots remove heavy items from shelves, transport items through warehouses, and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about Amazon’s work with robotics, make sure to keep reading for more useful facts and information!
What Do Amazon Robots Do?
Amazon’s robots perform a variety of tasks. Some robots are present in most warehouses, while others are being tested and deployed little by little.
Palletizers are one of the original robots used by Amazon, which use an arm to grab totes containing orders from conveyor belts.
Afterward, they stack the totes on pallets for shipping or stowing.
Another robotic arm called the robo-stow lifts pallets of inventory to different levels in fulfillment centers or places them on drive units for transportation to their next destination.
Drive units are yet another kind of robot used by Amazon, and their job is to transport packages around facilities.
In addition to the robots that are currently in use, Amazon is in the process of testing other models.
One robot being tested is nicknamed Ernie, which is designed to take product containers (known as totes) off shelves at different heights, then use its robotic arm to deliver the totes to warehouse employees at a comfortable height.
Furthermore, another robot in the testing process is nicknamed Bert. This model is one of Amazon’s first autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).
Bert and other AMRs are designed to navigate facilities independently.
Unlike other robots, Bert would not be limited to a certain area. Rather, Amazon workers could ask Bert to transport items across a facility.
In addition to Bert, Amazon has two other AMRs in the works. One is nicknamed Scooter and is being tested to pull carts through Amazon’s fulfillment centers autonomously.
Kermit is the other AMR being tested, and its job would be to move empty totes from locations throughout the warehouse back to the order fulfillment starting line.
Why Does Amazon Use Robots?
According to Amazon, robots increase efficiency and safety at fulfillment centers. In terms of efficiency, robots make it possible to store 40% more inventory.
So, more inventory means faster shipping times because it’s less likely that an item will be out of stock.
Similarly, robots make it easier to manage inventory, creating a faster delivery time and a more consistent customer experience.
Amazon has a goal of one day offering 30-minute delivery, something that would only be possible with the help of robots.
As well, robots will help Amazon continue offering the competitive prices customers are used to even as logistics costs increase.
While the customer experience is certainly a driving force behind Amazon’s desire to expand its robotic inventory, improving employees’ working conditions is also an important factor in the decision.
Amazon claims that automation frees workers from dull, repetitive tasks.
Not having to pull boxes or walk across massive warehouses means that humans can focus on more complex tasks while reducing their potential for injury.
When Did Amazon Introduce Robots?
Amazon started using robotics after its 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems, since renamed Amazon Robotics.
Which Amazon Warehouses Have Robots?
Interestingly, fulfillment centers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States (Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania), as well as Amazon’s flagship warehouse in Washington, boast the high ratios of robots to human employees.
Who Creates the Robots for Amazon?
Amazon first started using robots in 2012 when the company purchased Kiva Systems, a company that manufactured mobile robotic fulfillment systems.
When Amazon purchased the company, it was renamed Amazon Robotics, which started using the company’s robots in its fulfillment centers.
Kiva continues to hire for positions in engineering and manufacturing, but industry experts expect that Amazon is focusing on internal development and will not share its advancements with other companies.
While most of Amazon’s robots are developed internally, its Robostows were manufactured by Thiele Robotics, a German company.
What Are the Robots at Amazon Called?
If there’s one thing Amazon loves, it’s giving clever nicknames to its tools and programs, and robots are no exception.
Below is a list of Amazon’s current robots, their names, and their functions. We’ve also included some of the robots that are still in testing and early deployment.
1. Current robots:
- Kiva – This model was the first model of robot that Amazon used. It got its name from the company that created it, Kiva Systems. Kiva moves shelves around for faster and cheaper stowing and can lift up to 1,000 pounds.
- Hercules – Similar to Kiva, but with a 3,000-pound lifting capacity, hence the strongman nickname.
- Pegasus – This model, named after the mythical winged horse, is a newer version of the original Kiva. Because it’s shorter, more items fit on it, allowing Amazon to stock more items in its warehouses.
- Pegasus X-Drive Sort – This model is designed to be a base for other attachments. One attachment is the X-Sort Drive, a conveyor-belt contraption used to sort and transport parcels to its shipping locations.
- Xanthus – One of the newer models, it has a thinner profile than Kiva and one-third the number of parts. Additionally, it is also cheaper and is easier to maintain.
- Robostow – This robot is a classic articulated arm used to lift pallets and boxes, and was created by a third-party manufacturer, Thiele.
2. Limited deployment robots:
- Ernie – Named after the beloved Sesame Street character, Ernie was designed to take containers (known as totes) off shelves and deliver them to warehouse employees at a comfortable height.
- Bert – On Sesame Street, Berti is Ernie’s sidekick, and at Amazon, it’s one of the first Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). It’s designed to move cargo around the warehouse independently.
- Scooter and Kermit – Two more AMRs in the works that will be used to move empty packages across facilities.
3. In testing:
- Drones – Amazon’s drones are designed to bring packages from fulfillment centers to customers, and are currently able to fly up to 15 miles while carrying up to 5 pounds.
- Scout – This “box on wheels” is used to deliver parcels the last mile from the fulfillment center to the customer, and is only available near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters at this time.
How Fast Are Amazon Robots?
Most of Amazon’s current robots have a top speed of 3 miles per hour, which is equivalent to a comfortable walking speed.
Amazon is serious about improving its speed, customer service, and employee work experience. As such, the company is sparing no expense when it comes to its robotics program.
Over the coming years, Amazon will continue to use more and more robots to increase delivery speeds, deliver an even better customer experience and help employees stay healthy.